Many people have asked me about the cost of living in Rio de Janeiro. There are so many variables that go into the equation that it is really hard to peg down exact numbers, but i’d like to at least give you some idea of what my costs were. Remember that this is my experience living in the Barra de Tijuca area of Rio de Janeiro (one of if not the most expensive areas) and a lot of these costs can change for you.
All around I would say living in Barra is pretty comparable to costs in the United States. Some food items are cheaper, some are more expensive, but it all kind of evens out. For the longest time I was just eating out as I budgeted for it. You can get a good meal of rice, beans, and chicken or beef for about R$8 or about 5 USD. These meals are so big I sometimes just split them up and eat them for two meals.
There is also a place where you can share a meal with a friend and get a huge steak along with different potatoes, rices, pasta, or salads for about R$10 each. It’s called Conta Alegre and if you come stay at Connection Rio or in Barrinha you should definitely check this place out. Spending a little over 6 USD on a nice steak dinner makes it hard to not go back there every day. Another popular thing here is “rodizio” or all you can eat places. I’ve been to a few pizza places that have varied from R$16 to R$30. Finally, my favorite the churascurias (brazilian steakhouse) are available as well. I’ve paid from R$35 to R$100 for a meal including drinks at these places.
Lately I’ve been buying a bag of chicken wings at the store and cooking them myself. 800g for about R$6. You can just eat rice, fresh vegetables, and cook meat at home for pretty cheap here. You can get most everything you can in the United States at the markets here. As I said though, some things will even cost more. A can of pasta sauce that I buy in the states for about 6 USD costs about R$16 here. That’s about the best rundown I can give without knowing what someone specifically has in their diet.
Entertainment was probably my personal biggest expense here. If you like to go out to bars or clubs, you are also going to find it somewhat comparable to the United States. The beer at bars isn’t too bad, and in places like Baixo Gavea you can actually buy it off of street vendors for about R$3, but nice bars are going to cost you. As for clubs, well I haven’t been happy with myself anytime I’ve walked out of one here (usually at daylight) and I’d prefer not to disclose my tabs! Mixed drinks are expensive. You usually pay like $10 for basically the shot or two of vodka, and then have to pay for your mixer on the side. A beer will run you from R$4 up. Some clubs make you pay a R$90 entrance fee but you get to drink R$80 of your cover. I realize that some of you reading this don’t even drink, but figured I would throw it in there just incase.
Training costs are hard to peg down. I simply haven’t been exposed to enough academies (or their costs anyway), and it seems like the price is always changing. I would say expect to pay at least 100 USD a month for training, maybe more. It’s very similar to the United States. I know on a lot of message boards they always parody or make fun of the “bjj is too expensive” crowd, but honestly I feel lucky and I’ll tell you why.
Gordo was talking about academy costs in one of the Real Rio episodes and I spoke to Dennis about it in a little more detail. Basically, jiu jitsu used to cost just as much as going to a university. It was over twice the price of what it is now here in Rio alone. Basically only the elite could afford to take jiu jitsu, it wasn’t for everyone. It’s now at a much more affordable rate than before, and I’m happy I’m able to train in it. I think everyone else should be glad they aren’t getting charged university tuition rates for it as well. That’s just my opinion.
As far as transportation or getting around, I walk and use public transportation everywhere. I finally have a good grasp on the bus and metro system here, and you can really get anywhere with it. I can get from Barra to Copacabana using both bus and subway for about R$3.40. To compare, a taxi would probably cost me about $50 for the same ride. Yes, the bus drivers are absolute maniacs and yes, the buses can get super crowded and so do the subways, but they get crowded in every major city.
Tourism costs will vary greatly as well. You can chalk up a couple dollar bus ride as a tourist cost and visit all of the beaches in Rio. Climbing Pedra da Gavea gives you a beautiful view of Rio at it’s highest point and it’s completely free except for the nice climb up it. You can also go to Santo Cristo (Christ Statue) and it will cost you about R$30 to get to the top which I detailed in another post. Sugarloaf was comparable to that as well. There are various museums in the city at various costs. The modern art museum is actually free on Sundays, so consider that cost another bus ride.
I know housing is always a huge question for everyone, and to be honest it’s a really tough one to answer. I definitely recommend Connection Rio as myself as well as everyone I’ve known has had a great experience here. I understand that not everyone wants to live in Barra though, and it is a little different living in other parts of Rio which can have its upsides as well.
The two people I talked to most about coming to Rio and while in Rio were Dennis Asche from Connection Rio and Felipe Costa. Both of them went out of their way to help me with any question I had and believe me I had many. Connection Rio seemed to be the best option cost wise for me, but it is also a hostel environment and some people may not be open to that. I personally had a private room for my stay here but there are cheaper options if you don’t mind living in a shared room. I had everything I needed and I met some great people that I am sure I will keep in contact with long after this trip.
There is also the option to rent out an apartment on your own and those prices can vary greatly. If you are serious about coming here, contact Dennis and/or Felipe. These are two people that can be of great help to you and I feel more comfortable with sending you to them than to trying to give you my small insight into the topic.
If you have any more specific questions, feel free to post them as blog comments below. I will answer them here on the blog for you when I have time (which is often at the moment). I’m more than happy to help others out as many have helped me. Hopefully this guide alone can help you a little in planning out your adventure.